Living in Indonesia so far has made me realize that it’s really important to be flexible. Basic things that I take for granted in Canada, I cannot here. Sometimes when I turn on the tap, the water runs and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes when I turn on the light, the light turns on, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes when there’s a storm, the power goes out. Sometimes when there’s no storm, the power goes out. Sometimes when I turn off the tap, the water keeps running. Sometimes when I turn off the tap, the water stops. So I’ve learned to keep the mandi full, my laptop and electronics charged, and a candle and matches in my room.
But some things, I just don’t have the flexibility for, and I’m just plain scared. Like yesterday, when the giant 8.4 seismic earthquake shook Tokyo to the core and sent a tsunami around the globe… A friend from Yogya thankfully alerted me to the news, and said I should think about leaving the north coast of Java for the night. I live about 400m from the coast, at least on the second floor of a house. (I thought that leaving Yogya and Merapi behind last month, I wouldn’t have any more natural disaster events to worry about!) I turned on the tv, and the news was announcing that a tsunami would hit Papua and Northern Sulawesi at about 6pm Java time. It was 5pm at the time. I freaked out and started thinking I just bike up this mountain close by. Instead, I called an English teacher that I had met who lives in Sendang, a village about 5km south of the coast and also on a higher elevation. I had taught there last week at his school, as a guest teacher. I asked if I could stay overnight, and could we please leave quite soon? It was no problem. My friends thought that I was funny, leaving the village overnight, but there certainly are no tsunamis in Canada, and I had no desire to find out what one would be like. Over precautious, maybe. My host family also tried to convince me that it’s completely safe in Paciran, but again, I really didn’t want see the proof firsthand.
It turns out there were no big waves last night in Paciran, which, alhamdullilah, is excellent. It hit Sulawesi, and there was flooding, but nothing compared to the horrible damage in Japan. Thinking about it makes me want to cry. Maybe it’s because I’m oversensitive. Or because I’m here in a different country, and my senses are just heightened for everything, and I’m not used to the natural disasters that can happen here. Sure, it can be dangerous in Canada – there can be forest fires or crazy snow storms – but volcanos blowing up, earthquakes and giant waves, in my opinion, are a whole other realm of natural disasters that I have no cultural upbringing or common sense about. It just makes me scared.
So when the English teacher told me that it was “a dream come true” that I was going to be a guest at his family’s home, I knew I was in good hands. We talked until late (10pm) that night; I showed pictures of Canada on my laptop; he showed me his artwork of embroidery designs for jilbabs (headcoverings) and extravagant 3D foam designs for birthday parties for rich kids in Surabaya. I met his Dad and his Mom, his wife, his 4 year old daughter, his sister-in-law and her son, his friend and that guy’s friend, some friends of his Dad, and some lady. And then I slept.